Sometimes, someone can do or say the smallest thing, yet it fills up such a large part of your heart.
I had only heard about this book and this author through Amanda Palmer, as he is apparently a nearly lifelong friend and mentor of hers. He is currently very ill, and Amanda has dropped nearly everything to be at his side while he undergoes treatment. I felt all at once jealous and happy and sad that this person is loved enough to have people willing to do that for them. I’m kind of like a homeless person looking in the windows at a happy, warm family, knowing that could never be me.
But I digress.
My true reason for going to this event, of course, was to be able to see Amanda and Neil Gaiman (and ended up getting a delightful surprise when Jason Webley ended up being there, too!), and a few friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I didn’t really know what the book was about, and hadn’t researched it or bought it, as I was planning to pick up a copy at the event itself. So I went in pretty much without expectations.
And then I heard him tell one of his stories. And my heart opened up. And I cried. It was beautiful.
Afterwards, I stood in the long line of people, clutching my copy of the book, waiting to have it signed, and excited to meet Anthony and see Amanda and Neil. I’m not really sure what I expected from Anthony. Maybe the usual cursory smile, the asking of my name, the quick jot of an illegible signature, the eyes glancing off of my anonymous face in a blur and then moving on to the next.
That’s not what happened at all. He LOOKED at me. He looked at me as if I actually existed. As if it mattered that I was there. Even when I was awkward and shy and stumbled over my words. He looked at me, and noticed that I was myself. And I felt like he thought it was amazing that I was me. And I felt like maybe it was OK that I was me. For the first time in a long time.
It had been so long since I felt like I was real.
In the span of about 30 seconds, he managed to open up a tiny piece of my soul, and let a single beam of light inside the darkness.
Since then, I have read and re-read his stories, never in a linear fashion, but flipping back and forth within the book as though doing so could wrinkle time and bring that feeling of belonging back to me once again. So far I haven’t found it, although the stories remain beautiful. But I think about how it felt, every day, and every day I am once again grateful to Anthony for giving me that feeling in the first place. The difference is, now I think I actually have some hope that maybe one day I will find it again.